Sunday, September 27, 2020

Mounds

Ancient earthen mounds exist worldwide. Known as "barrows" in England, "kurgans" in Turkey and Russia, and "tumuli" in many parts of the world, earthen mounds are known from:

  • Sweden (Gamla Upsalla, 2,000 tumuli)
  • Austria (Sulm Valley Necropolis, 2,000 tumuli)
  • Hungary (Great Hungarian Plain, 40,000 tumuli)
  • Mali (Gorbi Valley, hundreds of tumuli)
  • Japan (Kofun Keyhole Mounds, 161,000 tumuli
  • Uruguay (Cerritos de Indios, 3,000 tumuli)
Some are very large. The tomb of King Alyattes (ca. 619 - 560 BC) at Bin Tepe in modern Turkey has a diameter of 360 meters and is 61 meters high. This makes it over twice as large as the biggest mound in the Mississippi drainage basin (Monks Mound, Cahokia). About 1,000 tumuli are known from the Bin Tepe necropolis and tens of thousands more are found throughout modern Greece, North Macedonia, and Turkey. The Russian steppes contain thousands of burial mounds.
Tomb of King Alyattes, Bin Tepe, Turkey

Earthen mounds are such basic structures they were built by people with relatively low levels of cultural attainment. Case in point: the Aborigines built clusters of tumuli at 10 sites in northern Australia. See Sally Brockwell, "Earth Mounds in Northern Australia: A Review" in Australian Archaeology 63:1 (December, 2006).

Limited numbers of people were capable of moving large amounts of dirt. For example, the population of Cahokia in modern Illinois at apogee (ca. AD 1100) is generally estimated at between 15,000 and 50,000 (ancient population estimates are notoriously difficult to determine precisely). This was the largest urbanization north of Mexico in pre-Columbian times. Over a 300 year period (ca. AD 1050 - 1350), this group built the 120 - 190 mounds (reports vary) that made up ancient Cahokia, including 700,000 cubic meter Monks Mound as the centerpiece.

Drone View of Monks Mound, Cahokia Overlooking the Mississippi

Recent research indicates Monks Mound was built in about 20 years. See this article by the Archaeological Conservancy. Most experts believe the mounds were built by people carrying baskets of dirt. As a quick reality check, I created a spreadsheet with 3 variables:

  1. Number of people (1,000 - 5,000) carrying baskets of dirt.
  2. Size of the baskets (1 gallon = 12 pounds, 3 gallons = 36 pounds of dirt).
  3. Number of trips per day (1 or 2) from the borrow pits to the mound.
This is the spreadsheet. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.

Analysis of Time Required to Build Monks Mound, Cahokia

If 1,000 people made 1 trip per day carrying a 1 gallon (12 pound) basket of dirt, it would have taken 451 years to build Monks Mound. If 5,000 people made 2 trips per day carrying a 3 gallon (36 pound) basket of dirt, they could have built Monks Mound in 15 years. 

A modern earthen mound exists in American Fork, Utah, in my backyard. At 16 feet long X 12 feet wide X 8 feet tall, it is large enough to show up on Google Earth. I built it in one day with picks and shovels, assisted by two strong helpers. A landscaper with a Bobcat moved it a few years ago to its present location. My children, grandchildren, and two generations of neighborhood kids have all played on our backyard "hill."

Red Arrow Indicates Mound in American Fork, UT per Google Earth

An irrational faction within the Church tries unsuccessfully to identify the Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites as the North American Adena and Hopewell mound builders. This notion is utter nonsense. I have visited dozens of mounds in the US including Grave Creek (Adena), Marietta (Hopewell), Newark (Hopewell), Mound City (Hopewell), and Miamisburg (Adena). I have visited my personal favorite, Serpent Mound (Adena, Fort Ancient), several times as I have been in the greater Cincinnati area on business. I have spent time in the Ohio History Connection Museum in Columbus learning about Adena and Hopewell lifeways. There is nothing I have seen in American mound builder culture that rises to the level of the sophisticated civilizations described in the Book of Mormon. (See the blog article "State Level Society"). I have seen no evidence in the Mississippi River drainage basin of the population sizes or densities described in the Nephite text. (See the blog articles "Prophecy Fulfilled 010" and "LiDAR."

Ancient peoples heaped up dirt. With modest populations, they heaped up lots of dirt. Low-skilled cultures heaped up dirt. Artificial mortuary hillocks are found worldwide. Earthen mounds do not an advanced civilization make. The Book of Mormon more than 20 times describes elegant and spacious "buildings" Mosiah 11:8, Ether 10:5. Mounds, barrows, kurgans, or tumuli are not what the Nephite scribes were talking about.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Outstanding Come Follow Me Resources

I volunteer as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central. Our vision is to build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere. With a dedicated team of volunteer directors and advisors, donors, paid staff, and volunteers including service missionaries, we are engaging about 250,000 people every 24 hours with the good news of Jesus Christ and the Restoration in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Book of Mormon Central (BMC) engages our audience with several strategic imperatives:

In addition, Book of Mormon Central (BMC) offers 14 superb resources to help Latter-day Saints get the most out of their Come Follow Me (CFM) study.

  1. English CFM Teach Learn Share Facebook Group
  2. Spanish Ven sígueme CLDM Facebook Group
  3. John W. Welch Notes on the Book of Mormon in English. They are in both English and Spanish in the ScripturePlus Mobile App. 
  4. Brant Gardner Book of Mormon Minute in both English and Spanish in the ScripturePlus Mobile App
  5. Come Follow Me Reading Plan in the ScripturePlus Mobile App
  6. English KnoWhys correlated with the CFM schedule
  7. Spanish KnoWhys correlated with the CFM schedule
  8. Taylor Halverson and Tyler Griffin Come Follow Me Insights on the BMC YouTube Channel and in Portuguese on the BMC Portuguese YouTube Channel
  9. Come Follow Me with John Hilton III on the BMC YouTube Channel and in Portuguese on the BMC Portuguese YouTube Channel
  10. Weekly English CFM Resource Guides
  11. Por Fe y Estudio with Noe Correa on the BMC Spanish YouTube Channel
  12. Ven Sigueme Kids on the BMC Spanish YouTube Channel
  13. Te Lo Cuento en 10 with Cecy Gastelum on the BMC Spanish YouTube Channel
  14. Abundant enrichment material such as quotes, images, videos, etc. curated at the verse level in both English and Spanish on the ScripturePlus Mobile App
This rich offering is shared with the world free of charge in the spirit of Isaiah 55:1 and Alma 1:20. BMC measures success by the number of user engagements (aka touches). Every read, view, listen, like, share, comment, etc. is a user engagement. Dividing our cumulative dollar spend by user engagements gives us our cost per user engagement, a measure of how productively we are utilizing our donor's money. The trend is sharply downward from 36 cents per user engagement in 2016, our first year of operation, to 4 cents so far in 2020. 
Cost per User Engagement Decreasing over Time


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Mighty Nation = Spain

In December, 2018, I authored an important blog post entitled "Prophecy Fulfilled 016" identifying the mighty nation among the Gentiles described in 1 Nephi 22:7 as Spain. The article explained the historical succession of Spain/France/England as global superpower and interpreted 1 Nephi 13:30 in that light.

Chronology clinches the identification of Spain as the mighty nation. What did the mighty nation do? They scattered Lehi's descendants 1 Nephi 22:7. When was Lehi's seed scattered? Before the marvelous work among the Gentiles began 1 Nephi 22:8. What was the marvelous work? The coming forth of the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 25:17, 27:26 was a major part of it.

The Savior referenced this same chronology. 3 Nephi 16:4, 7 says the Book of Mormon would go first to the Gentiles. And when would this blessing go to the Gentiles? After the Gentiles had scattered the remnant of the house of Israel in the New World 3 Nephi 20:15.

Key dates associated with the modern Book of Mormon include:

  • December 23, 1805 Joseph Smith, Jr. was born
  • September 21, 1823 Angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr.
  • March 26, 1830 Book of Mormon went on sale to the public 
So, the mighty nation, pre-eminent among all others in the New World, scattered Lehi's posterity prior to the 1805 - 1830 time frame. The various Latin American nations gained their independence from Spain between 1810 and 1825. From 1500 - 1810, Spain scattered Lehi's children and appropriated native American lands from California to Argentina.
Map of the United States in 1800 

During those 300 years preceding the marvelous work of the restoration, no other nation came close to the level of influence Spain exercised in the Western Hemisphere.

Soon after this article was published, I was delighted that a friend, Bruce Webster, shared his 2013 blog post with me. He reached the same conclusion that 1 Nephi 22:7 refers to the Spanish Empire.